South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (C) answers reporter's question during a news conference in Seoul. Photo: Reuters/Lee Jin-man
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (C) answers reporter's question during a news conference in Seoul. Photo: Reuters/Lee Jin-man

President Donald Trump said in Seoul earlier this week that he discerns “certain movement” in ongoing direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang to resolve North Korea’s nuke crisis. But a senior South Korean diplomat told Yonhap that little progress toward serious dialogue is being made in the assortment of discussions now underway between the two nations.

“Exchanges and contact are regularly ongoing between the US and North Korea through a New York channel and there’s also a variety of contact through the so-called 1.5 track or academic exchange, however there’s no detailed progress to note,” the South Korean news agency reported Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam as telling the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Friday.

The “New York channel” refers to exchanges between the two countries’ diplomatic missions to the United Nations in New York.

Lim was responding to a South Korean legislator’s query for more detail on Trump’s reference to possible progress in such talks.

In his press conference on Tuesday, Trump said, “I do see certain movement, yes. But let’s see what happens,” after being asked about “direct talks” with North Korea.

Lim was less upbeat in his analysis. “It could be assessed that US efforts and approach toward North Korea are producing a degree of results,” Lim said, adding that North Korea has not conducted any military provocations for nearly two months since September 15, when North Korea last launched a ballistic missile.

“I assume Trump may have hinted at some kind of progress, although it was not specific, based on this assessment,” the vice minister said.

One more ICBM test?

In related news, a US Asia expert told UPI that North Korea may undertake one more missile test to demonstrate to the US that it can hit Washington or New York. This, despite the fact that Pyongyang has refrained from making further missile or nuke tests for more than a month.

Ralph Cossa, the president of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said in New York on Thursday it’s unclear why North Korea has stopped testing weapons since late September. He noted that one reason might be the absence of further sanctions imposed by the international community.

Cossa added however: “I think the North Koreans probably feel they need to do at least one more extended range missile test to demonstrate a true ICBM capability, since we haven’t given them credit.”

Robert Carlin, a veteran Korea analyst, warned in an article posted on specialist website 38 North earlier this week that Pyongyang might be tempted to take “one more fatal step” in the form of nuke or missile test that triggers a US military response from Trump.